October 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm #810MikeKeymaster
Drought begins to take toll on fish
By Richard Wronski
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 7, 2005
How dry has it been this summer? So dry that fish are starting to
bite the dust.
State wildlife officials say fish die-offs are being reported across
the state after the third-driest March through June in recorded
While the dead fish don’t pose a serious problem yet–they have
mainly been showing up in shrinking shallow backwaters–state
conservation officials are monitoring the situation, anxiously
watching how events unfold in July, typically the most arid month.
A wide variety of dead fish, including carp, catfish and bullheads,
has been reported in the Wilke Marsh in Palatine; in a section of the
DuPage River near Naperville; in power plant cooling lakes; and along
channels of the Kaskaskia River in southern Illinois.
“Fish are like anything else. They are stressed like a lot of people
and plants,” said Mike Conlin, director of resource conservation for
the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Everything is under a
stress condition right now. If this persists, we’ll start seeing some
The fish are succumbing to depleted amounts of oxygen in ponds and
other bodies of stagnant water because of high temperatures and low
water levels, Conlin said.
“The hotter it gets, the less oxygen the water can hold, and the
shallower the water gets, the hotter the fish get,” he said.
Recreational fishermen are often the first to report mass fish kills,
but they aren’t the only ones affected. The effects ripple up the
food chain, from mussels in the water to raccoons, minks and otters
that feed on aquatic life.
“It’s going to affect our entire ecosystem,” Conlin said.The
phenomenon was last widely noted during the drought of 1988, Conlin
said. “We had a large number of fish kills occur.”
Throughout the upper Midwest, waterfowl and game birds were deprived
of fresh water and nesting cover. Fish trapped in shallow waters died
by the thousands across the central states.
Conservation officials are expected to discuss the problem Thursday
when Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Drought Task Force convenes in
The 7.3-acre Wilke Marsh is southwest of Illinois Highway 53 and Rand
Road. Hundreds of dead carp were recently spotted there by residents
after the drought lowered the water level significantly and exposed
much of the shore.
“I looked out there and saw some white stuff floating in the pond,”
said Albert Moreno, who lives in the Clover Ridge East
Apartments. “At first I shrugged it off. But as the water continued
to recede and more and more of them showed up, I could tell they were
Since then, rains have replenished much of the Wilke Marsh, an
environmentally sensitive area.
“Common carp are very tolerant [of low oxygen] and can get a lot of
air from the atmosphere,” Conlin said. “But when carp die, you know
things are getting pretty tough.”
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